Last year over the High Holidays I spoke about the concept of Upstanders. Upstanders is a term coined by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as part of a campaign on the Starbucks website to raise awareness about ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. It is when we, who are all bystanders take the step to make a difference in someone(s) life. When we do, we go from bystander to upstander. The thing about the Upstanders series is that it teaches that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of others. You don’t need a PhD, or lots of money. You don’t need to be a movie star or politician. You just need to be you.
This week’s Torah portion is Lech Lecha. After missteps with Adam and Noah, God decides that leadership of the Jewish people will fall to a man name Abram. We are never told why Abram was chosen. He was not the son of a sheik or prince. He didn’t have wealth or power. We do not read of any miracles he wrought. He was just an ordinary guy who ends up doing something extra-ordinary. We are all bystanders, but it is in all of us to take action and become upstanders.
Today, we are inundated with news about war, natural disaster, violent crime, poverty and politics. Taking the time to highlight the good that is happening in our society helps reframe our understanding of the world around us. It is not all bad. It is not all gloom and doom. The stories of the Upstanders will lift your hearts and souls.
I happened to stop into my local Starbucks this week and noticed some advertisements for season two of Upstanders. Over the past couple of days, I have been making my way through the episodes. There are some incredibly inspiring stories. They are models for what we too can accomplish.
You can access them here: